The Austin Independent School District is taking heat from some in the LGBTQ community for allowing a congregation with traditional views on marriage to rent its facility on Sundays.
Celebration Church has been holding services in the AISD’s Performing Arts Center in the Mueller area of Austin, Texas, since Aug. 26, according to the Austin American-Statesman, but now some are angry over the church’s stated position on marriage.
While the church welcomes anyone to attend its services, on its website, the congregation describes marriage as “a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman.” And in a statement to the American-Statesman, founding pastor Joe Champion said, “We are welcoming to all people and love everyone the same. We are hopeful everyone will commit to equality before the government for all people, regardless of their viewpoints.”
Ever since the church started holding services at the Performing Arts Center, demonstrators have gathered outside the building to protest the congregation.
School board trustee Ann Teich, who represents the Mueller community, said she’s “not in favor of renting to any entity that doesn’t support our values … and that’s full inclusion of our LGBTQ community.”
One protester, Candace Aylor, told KXAN-TV it’s “inappropriate” for students — some of whom she’s heard are part of the LGBTQ community — to operate audio and video equipment during services for a church “demonstratively against their existence.”
Jasmin Patel, another protester, argued AISD “is telling [students] two different things” by allowing the church to use the Performing Arts Center while also seeking to be inclusive of differing sexual orientations. She said the church is spreading “hateful messaging.”
The protesting against Celebration Church comes as AISD officials are finalizing the details of two rules changes that will impact use of the facility.
“We want to ensure we are keeping it open for students and schools and not eliminating their opportunity to utilize it. There’s also a lot of wear and tear involved, and [we’re] making sure we keep that building in good shape,” Jacob Reach, chief of staff for AISD, said. “We have custodial staff that actually go in there and clean. When we have events every night, it’s just not possible for them to do that. It’s the same with our other staff.”
Faithwire reached out to Celebration Church, but did not hear back from a pastor before press time. This story will be updated if someone from the church responds.